FORT WORTH (February 5, 2014) State District Judge Jean Boyd Wednesday decided against jail for a second time as she sentenced Ethan Couch, 16, to probation for a drunken-driving crash that killed four people and injured six others last summer near Fort Worth.
In December, Boyd sentenced Couch to 10 years’ probation after the teenager pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter.
Prosecutors were seeking a 20-year jail sentence.
Couch was back in court Wednesday as prosecutors again sought a 20-year jail sentence, this time on intoxication assault charges related to two severely injured survivors of the deadly crash.
The hearing was closed to the public, but defense attorney Reagan Wynn told reporters afterward that Boyd ordered the teen to be sent to a rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents.
The judge didn't identify the facility, but the boy’s family previously offered to pay for a $450,000-a-year center in California.
The case has stirred controversy in part because of the sentence and in part because of the contention of a defense expert who argued in December that Couch's wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility, a condition the expert termed "affluenza."
Authorities said the teen and friends were seen on surveillance video stealing two cases of beer from a store before the June 15, 2013 crash in southern Tarrant County.
On a rural road near Burleson, the teen's pickup truck slammed into four pedestrians, killing youth pastor Brian Jennings, 43, Breanna Mitchell, 24, Shelby Boyles, 21, and her mother, Hollie Boyles, 52.
Jennings, the youth pastor at Alsbury Baptist Church in Burleson, had attended a graduation party for one of his three children and was headed back to the church when he stopped after spotting the disabled SUV in which the three women had been riding and stopped to help.
The boy had a blood-alcohol level of 0.24 percent, or three times the legal limit for drivers 21 and older and was driving as fast as 70 miles per hour at the time of the crash, authorities said.
Defense attorneys said the teen needed treatment, not incarceration.